Big News at the AGO and a Party to Celebrate it

There are several pieces of exciting news at The Art Gallery of Ontario and last weekend they held a big party, called “AGO All Hours”, to celebrate. The mega art event lasted 14 1/2 hours, beginning at 10:30 am on Saturday morning and going right through until 1am on Sunday.

Attendees of all ages were invited to come to the gallery whenever they wanted to during the party, and were able to enjoy all kinds of special events and art-making opportunities. I was happy to have been invited and my mister, Nick, was glad to join me.

But first, the news …

  • New Admission Prices

The announcement that is sure to make many Toronto art-lovers very happy is their new pricing for admission to the gallery : From here on out, anyone who’s 25 or younger will get in for FREE. Everyone else will be offered an annual pass for $35, which will cover unlimited visits including admission to special exhibitions.

In the words of gallery CEO Stephan Jost, – Art is for everyone and these changes will ensure greater museum access. The new admission rates will open the Gallery’s doors wider than ever before. “Art is essential, and we’re making it easier for everyone to make it a part of their everyday lives,”.

  • A Seasonal “All Hours Party” will replace the former “First Thursday” events.

No question, I was a big fan of the gallery’s monthly “First Thursdays” events, when attendees could come to the gallery after regular hours for a themed evening that included entertainment, activities and food and drinks, in addition to all the art. I went six times over the several years that these were held and always had a great time. However, they always felt short, and it seemed like my friends and I could never do and see all that we wanted to before things wrapped up at around 11pm. Also, they were held on a weekday, not the best day of the week for a party. Additionally, they were very much adult oriented, which was fine by me but maybe not for parents who would have liked to bring children.

Now, instead of those monthly events, they are going to regularly host one long party, like the one we went to last weekend, on a Saturday once per season, (which I’m assuming will be once every few months). We loved that it was on a Saturday and, being night owls, really like the fact that they’ll go on until one in the morning.

  • The cool new Yayoi Kusama infinity mirrored room, “Let’s Survive Forever”, is now open to everyone.

I was fortunate to have a sneak peek of this magical artwork at the beginning of April and it is pretty amazing. I wrote about this new acquisition by the AGO in this post, if you’d like to read about it and see photos, but maybe you’d prefer to go and experience it for yourself. Now you can!

The gallery has set up a kiosk with tablets where guests can add themselves to the list to see it, which will allow for less crowding at the entrance of the exhibit and people will be able to take in the rest of the art while awaiting their turn, rather than stand in a long line-up.

And now, onto the “AGO All Hours Party”, held on Saturday, May 25th …

As mentioned, it went on from morning until late at night, with different programming for morning, afternoon and evening. Some of the daytime activities were planned to be held outside in the beautiful Grange Park, behind the gallery, but darned if it wasn’t an extremely rainy day, so those things must have been moved indoors. You can see the list of all that went on at the AGO’s site here.

We arrived at 8pm and stayed until about 10:30. There were still some teens there with their parents when we got there, and a line-up of young adults waiting to get in (for FREE) when we left.

A heart-warming thing I noticed was quite a few parents and grandparents, having a nice evening out with their early-twenties children and grandchildren. I sure would have enjoyed attending this type of thing with my parents when I was a student. And then, after a look at some art, a snack and a glass of wine, I’m sure I would have walked them to the door and headed back to the dance party!

The entire gallery was open, so there was plenty to see and do. Nick let me lead the way and I was happy to oblige.

One thing I wanted to see for sure, was the newly installed temporary exhibit by Vija Celmins, but we weren’t in any rush, so began by wandering around the first floor …

↑ Singer-songwriter Zaki Ibrahim was onstage in Walker Court. She’s been nominated for a Juno and Polaris-Prize, so it goes without saying that the show was really good. ↑

↑ Have a little look and listen. ↑

↑ In the Modern Art area, where there’s a piece by Fernand Léger and one by Amedeo Modigliani, as well as many others. ↑

↑ Picasso and Matisse, and Nick admiring “Marchesa Casati” by Augustus John. ↑

↑ Drop-in Life Drawing with a live model. ↑

↑ An area called “Studio Sampler” where guests were invited to try out painting and print-making. ↑

↑ Through the glorious European Art areas. The painting is “Daedalus and Icarus” by Anthony Van Dyke, created in 1620. ↑

↑ I stopped short when I noticed a female name, as lady artists were very rare back in the 1800s. This is a painting by Mary Ann Alabaster (1805–1879), called “The Artist’s Painting-Room” created in 1830. The gallery confirmed the rarity of such a piece with their write up about it and the artist, found here. ↑

↑ There was some delicious looking food on offer, to be eaten amoungst a stunning grouping of Rodin sculptures. ↑

From there, in search of the Vija Celmins show, we took the elevator up and got off on the wrong floor. On the third floor, they’d just begun the festivities at the “Youth Council Stage” in Baillie Court, where there was a bar and a number of djs scheduled.

↑ We’d ridden the elevator with this friendly lady, who graciously allowed me to photograph her, in her very pretty dress. ↑

↑ Found Vija Celmins‘ work on the fifth (top) floor! ↑

From the AGO site : Vija Celmins : “To Fix the Image in Memory” is the first major North American retrospective of the celebrated artist’s work in over two decades. One of the few women to be recognized as a significant artist in 1960s Los Angeles, Celmins relocated to New York City in 1981, where she continues to live and work.  Her subject matter ranges from early studio still life paintings and sculpture, to small scale drawings of ocean surfaces, spider webs and celestial skies, all meticulously rendered in extraordinary detail.  This exhibition will also feature several large scale paintings, drawn from the artist’s newest body of work.   

Visit the site to access videos and audio files of Celmins discussing her work. 

The show contains over 110 pieces and will be on display until August 5, 2019.

↑ Mind-blowingly hand drawn with a simple graphite pencil. ↑

↑ Also completely hand-drawn! The postage stamps were created separately and glued on. ↑

↑ I can never resist anything miniature or large scale. These completely life-like models of Pink Pearl erasers are each about a foot and a half long. ↑

↑ There was a room containing many of these vintage black-board slates. In listening to Vija discuss them (in the audio files linked above) I discovered that a few were actual antiques she’d found at a secondhand store but most of them are items she completely created from scratch. Viewers are not told, which is which. ↑

↑ A real antique or a Vija Celmins creation? I have no idea. ↑

↑ One real and one recreated … which is which? ↑

↑ Hand painted on canvas. ↑

From there we went down to the fourth floor where there were a number of sculptures …

↑ The sculptures of Montreal artist Valérie Blass (b. 1967) will be on display until December 1, 2019. ↑

↑ Toronto-based artist Kara Hamilton‘s pieces will also be on display until December 1, 2019. ↑

↑ “Today We Reboot the Planet – 2013” by Argentinian artist Adrián Villar Rojas. ↑

Then, we explored the second floor, where we had a quick look at the contemporary art and some of the pieces created by Canadian artists …

↑ The gallery owns over 90,000 artworks, so, of course, they can’t all be on display at the same time, therefore they often change up exhibits. Part of the fun of visiting regularly is discovering a new favourite artist. For example, this artist from Quebec, “James Wilson Morrice – 1865-1924″ is one whose work I was quite drawn to, but who I’d not experienced before, so I’m thinking this selection of his paintings has recently been pulled out of storage. ↑

↑ A quick pic with a favourite, Lawren Harris. (Steve Martin is a big fan of his … see the time he looked directly at my little camera so I could take a photo, in this post.) ↑

↑ We headed in to Galleria Italia, which was gorgeous in dim lighting and candles. We had a drink and played a game of chess. ↑

↑ The Yayoi Kusama exhibit is accessed from the western-most part of Galleria Italia. ↑

By then, we were beginning to lose steam, so we hung out by Walker Court for a bit before heading home.

Dj Dre Ngozi – “Thanks to her roots in the Caribbean and West Africa, Dre spins a wicked musical tale of sounds, from hip-hop, island riddims, and afro-vibes to global house and electronic energies.” ↑

↑ Arriving at 10:30pm and ready for an excellent time at the AGO. ↑

We had a lot of fun at the gallery’s big party. It was so well done and we look forward to the next one.

Thanks for reading, loulou xo